West Coast Tourism
The Miner’s Hut is a convincing replica of the real thing.
You might think Reefton is just a speck on the map en route to or from Greymouth – but it was once the envy of London and New York.
This small town was, in 1888, the first in the southern hemisphere to have a public supply of electricity, and even surpassed the suburbs of these large cities in the luxury of public lighting. Generated by turbines in the nearby Inangahua River, the electricity has earned Reefton its title of City of Light.
The source of finance behind this ambitious achievement was of course gold, and from the 1870s Reefton was extremely prosperous, with many important buildings erected while the gold lasted.
Enthusiastic locals have worked hard to bring the character of the city back to life: Broadway, the main street, is steeped in history. This is where you will find the three bearded miners in their hut, eager to tell you all the stories.
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Because you couldn’t be better off sitting by a crackling fire on a cold winter’s day, clutching a cup of hot tea in one hand and a big nugget of gold in the other.
The 1860s miner’s house replica is brilliantly crafted, convincingly bright and rustic, and packed with authentic pieces. The lushly bearded miners bring it all to life with their stories, information and jokes, bewitching young and old alike.
Gavin, Peter and Mark watch the game and live it too, happy to share the town’s history, miners’ stories and information on gold, minerals and geology.
They’ll heat iron in the forge to hammer it on the anvil and expertly show you how to pan for gold, so you can find the flakes they promise are right there in your gravel handful.
Keep an eye out for the opossum in the roof. Be sure to learn about the mineral levitrite.
On the way/nearby
Don’t miss the visitor center with its mine, theater and exhibits. Continue the theme by heading to Nana Ni’s for a homemade miner’s pie; or enjoy something tasty at Broadway Tearooms and Bakery.
Maybe buy takeout just outside of town at the Inangahua Swing Bridge picnic area. Then, cross the bridge and follow the inviting track through the beech forest for lovely views, and perhaps take the two-hour return walk to the old watercourse. Or simply take a walk along the river to inspect the old power station, which is being restored.
There is a good range of tramp and mountain bike trails in Victoria Conservation Park, the largest in the country. Back in town, discover the antiques of the Reefton Coffin Co, the art gallery, the shops or the railway heritage of the city.
Treat yourself to a tasting of gins and vodka at the Reefton Distilling Co – the tayberry liqueur is particularly recommended. Browse the many exhibits at Black’s Point Museum.
Appropriately, a gift of gold coins.
Best time to go
The miners are usually on site from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., depending on the weather.
Stay safe: New Zealand is currently under Covid-19 restrictions. Follow the instructions on covid19.govt.nz.